LONGMONT — The American military may be winning the war in Iraq, but it’s losing the recruiting battle at home.
This month, the Army anticipates it will miss its national recruiting goals, forcing it to look to alternative tactics to attract new enlistees, according to Army Secretary Francis Harvey.
One new strategy will be a sales pitch that appeals to the patriotism of parents of potential recruits.
The U.S. Army Denver Recruiting Battalion is slightly behind in monthly objectives, but officials are confident it will meet its annual goal.
The Denver battalion encompasses more than 250,115 square miles. Its territory includes all of Colorado, most of Wyoming, the eastern half of Montana and the western third of Nebraska.
According to Denver battalion public affairs chief Debbie Cannon, the Longmont Army recruiting branch had 17 enlistments in the 2004 fiscal year, and has already enlisted 21 people this year.
“We have until September of this fiscal year to meet our goal,” said Cannon. “If we stop looking at this as a month-by-month issue, and consider it in terms of a year, we’re not doing so bad.”
But as national trends go, things are not looking so good, and to combat this overall drop in enlistments, the U.S. military is offering incentives to lure young adults.
Such benefits include $70,000 for college, up to $65,000 to repay college loans, signing bonuses of up to $20,000, training in more than 150 jobs, fully paid family medical benefits and a job interview with a business partner once service is up.
“We haven’t had to change our strategies much,” said Cannon. “The Army sells itself. I don’t know of any other organizations that offer training, money for college, bonuses, benefits. We truly are the best business out there.”
But Jeff Delaroy of Longmont doesn’t feel he is buying into anything. He recently enlisted in the U.S. Navy under the delayed-entry program simply because serving in that branch is what he wants to do.
The delayed-entry program allows recruits to enter the Navy, or other military branches, and take up to one year to complete prior commitments such as high school.
“I don’t feel I got sold on anything,” said Delaroy, a senior at Longmont High School who will report to duty June 14. “I’ve always wanted to join the military, and now is the time for me to do so.”
When it comes to the risk of injury or death, Delaroy is not too concerned.
“Of course, when you enlist, there is always that possibility, but you just have to put that out of your head and do the job you are trained to do,” he said. “My recruiters were very honest with me; both of them never tried to hide the truth.”
Cannon said the Army has more recruiters than ever before, which gives them the opportunity to speak with applicants such as Delaroy on a personal level.
Sgt. Robert Bishop, one of the recruiters working with Delaroy at the Longmont Army recruiting station, said that if there’s a problem with recruitment it might be the recruiter’s fault.
“I’ve been doing this for 11 years,” said Bishop. “We just stick to the basics, nothing fancy, and we’re doing OK. If there’s a problem with recruitment, it might be in the recruiter’s head.”
Bishop has seen generational changes in his years as a recruiter, but he said that in the end, people either want to go into the Army or they don’t, and that hasn’t changed.
He did say, however, that recruiters are taking more of a counseling approach to recruiting.
“These days, we try to counsel potential recruits,” he said. “We’ll sit down and talk through all aspects of things to see if the Army is the right fit. We don’t try to force anyone in.”
Cannon also feels that little has changed over the years and that recruiters should not have too much trouble finding recruits.
“Everyone has the opportunity to benefit from what we have to offer,” said Cannon. “We don’t have to target any particular group of people because I don’t know any organization that can compete with what we have to give.”
Peter Marcus can be reached at
303-684-5336, or by e-mail at